Laser Cutting

A Guide for Choosing Laser, Water, or Plasma for Your Next Metal Cutting Project

Before you can begin to think about your latest metal project, your primary focus of attention may be on which way to cut the metal parts from the sheets of metal stock you have chosen for this metal cutting project.

In this post, let’s examine laser, waterjet, or plasma arc cutting as your choices at hand. Then let’s further enhance your metal-cutting project by putting you in touch with a metal-cutting project leader at Glenn Metalcraft, your one-stop metal-cutting project service provider.

Laser Cutting for Your Metal Cutting Project

Let’s take a look at what laser cutting consists of to gain a better understanding. First, LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. When you laser cut the pieces for your metal cutting project, you use a thermal-based fabrication method to cut, etch, and otherwise prepare the needed components for your metal cutting project.

That might be a bit of a mouth full, but in short, the produced laser beam in our shop is guided through CNC equipment, focused through various optics, and then used to slice through the sheets of metal stock, producing your needed metal parts and pieces.

Ideal Metals to Cut With Laser Cutting

Some metals have characteristics such as being light-reflective or extremely heat conductive. Copper and aluminum are examples of such metals and require cutting from sources other than lasers. Brass, steel, nickel, and tungsten are ideal for laser-cutting technology.

Pros of Laser Cutting

  • High precision: Laser cutting machines can cut metal parts with a high degree of precision, resulting in clean edges and minimal distortion.
  • Fast cutting speeds: Lasers can cut metal quickly, making them an efficient choice for high-volume production runs.
  • Versatility: Laser cutting can be used on a wide range of metal materials, including steel, aluminum, and titanium.

Cons of Laser Cutting

As with any thermal process, laser cutting can come with its own set of drawbacks, such as;

  • Limited thickness capacity: Laser cutting is not effective for cutting metal thicker than about 1 inch.
  • Heat-affected zone: Laser cutting generates heat which can affect the properties of the metal, such as changing the hardness or temper.
  • Warping or deformation: Laser cutting can cause warping or deformation of the metal, especially in thicker or more heat-sensitive materials. 

Waterjet Cutting for Your Metal Cutting Project

Waterjet Cutting Machine for metal cutting project

Waterjet cutting technology is a bit easier to explain than laser-cutting technology. In waterjet cutting, water is directed at a very high velocity through specialized jets to produce an effective and clean cut of your metal sheet stock. Sometimes, an abrasive substance is added to the water for use on types of harder alloys to enhance its cutting ability.

Similar to how water eroded and created the Grand Canyon over centuries, waterjet cutting employs the same technique but on a smaller and much more accelerated scale. Utilizing a high-pressure pump, waterjet cutting creates a fluid stream of up to 94,000 PSI. In perspective, a waterjet cutter is 80 times more powerful than a fire hose!

Ideal Metals to Cut With Waterjet Cutting

Without any added abrasive, waterjet cutting alone is ideal for softer materials like plastics, cement boards, and foam. To get the desired results from waterjet cutting for your metal cutting project, a special jeweled orifice is used in conjunction with garnet abrasives that exit the nozzle up to four times faster than the speed of sound. This allows metal materials up to one foot in thickness to be cut.

Pros of Waterjet Cutting

  • This is a cold-cutting method that produces ZERO heat-affected zones.
  • Omni-directional flexibility. You can cut in any direction, not just straight down.
  • Cutting so precisely with water is possible that no secondary finishing is required.
  • This process is safe and environmentally friendly.

Waterjet cutting is ideal for cutting, shaping, and reaming metal parts for aerospace and mining applications.

Cons of Waterjet Cutting

  • It may not be suitable for cutting materials thicker than about 6 inches.
  • Although extremely precise, waterjet cutting does not match the tight tolerances that some other cutting methods, such as laser cutting, can achieve.
  • Some materials, such as tempered or heat-treated steels, can be difficult or impossible to cut with a waterjet due to their hardness or the heat-affected zone created by previously employed cutting processes on the same piece.

Plasma Cutting for Your Metal Cutting Project

Plasmacutting at Work

So far, we have used amplified light sources and high-pressure water to cut the pieces of your metal cutting project. Now it’s going to get a bit more scientifically advanced. We all know the three states of matter, solid, liquid, and gas. Basic middle school science, right?

Plasma is sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter. When certain gasses are superheated, they become ionized. This makes the gas electrically conductive by turning the gas into plasma. 

Plasma cutters can use oxygen, nitrogen, argon, or even compressed air as their gas to heat via an arc produced by the cutting machine. As the gas and arc combine at the orifice point, all is converted to plasma. 

Ideal Metals to Cut With Plasma Cutting

Any metal that is a good conductor of electricity is ideal for a plasma cutter.

Those metals are;

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Carbon steel
  • Copper
  • Mild Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Expanded Steel

Sheet metal 1-2 mm and up to 1-2 inches thick are also ideal.

Now the Pros and Cons of plasma cutting.

Pros of Plasma Cutting

  • Plasma cutting is a fast cutting method that can be used to quickly and efficiently cut a wide range of materials.
  • It can provide high cutting accuracy from metal to non-metals.
  • It is a versatile cutting method and can be applied to a wide range of industries.

Cons of Plasma Cutting

  • Plasma cutting is less precise than other cutting methods, such as laser cutting or waterjet cutting, and may not be suitable for projects that require tight tolerances.
  • The intense heat generated by plasma cutting can cause warping or distortion in some materials, particularly thin or delicate materials.
  • Plasma cutting is typically limited to cutting materials no thicker than 1-2 inches, depending on the specific equipment and settings used.

The Next Level in Your Metal Cutting Project

Now that you have seen the differences between laser, waterjet, and plasma cutting and the pros and cons of each, let’s take your metal cutting project to the next level!

That being said, contact your one-stop shop for all your metal cutting project needs – Glenn Metalcraft.

Laser Cutting

Materials Suitable for Laser Cutting – A Comprehensive Guide

Laser cutting is an incredibly versatile technology that produces intricate and precise pieces of work from various materials. It’s an extremely convenient tool with many applications, as lasers can easily be used on many kinds of materials. This comprehensive guide will discuss the different types of laser cutting, which materials you should avoid, and which materials are suitable for laser cutting and engraving.

We will also provide some application ideas for each. So, if you’re looking for a deeper dive into materials suitable for laser cutting, you’ve come to the right place.


An Overview of Laser Cutting

Laser Cutting Machine

Laser cutting is an advanced technology for precision cutting or engraving materials. It uses a laser beam to cut or etch the desired shape into a material. Laser cutters use a concentrated beam of light created by a high-powered laser and focus on the material with extreme precision. Some common applications for laser cutting include industrial fabrication projects such as robotics components, furniture manufacturing, molds and dies fabrication, vehicle components, and tooling production.

There are four main types of laser cutting; fusion, vaporization, fracture-controlled, and laser flame. Fusion cutting involves melting the material so a fine beam can cut it, while vaporization cuts by quickly evaporating sections of the material before the beam melts the rest away. Fracture-controlled cutting works by creating high-stress points in the material and breaking it with minimal debris or heat produced. Lastly, laser flame works similarly to oxyfuel but produces no chemicals during the process.

The advantages of laser cutting are numerous. It is a highly accurate and cost-effective way of producing shapes from many materials. It is faster than traditional cutting methods and has clean edges with little to no waste. Laser cutting creates the smallest heat-affected zone (HAZ) of all the thermal cutting methods because of its fine beam. 

Laser cutting is an efficient and environmentally friendly process for cutting metal. The laser beam used in laser cutting is extremely precise, resulting in minimal material waste as opposed to other processes. This also reduces the amount of hazardous materials released into the environment, making laser cutting a much greener choice. 


Materials Suitable for Laser Cutting or Engraving by Laser

Materials Suitable for Laser Cutting

This technology enables materials such as metal, stone, glass, and even materials that are difficult to cut or engrave, like titanium, to be accurately cut with a high degree of efficiency.

In addition, laser cutting is suitable for synthetic materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene, and some other non-metallic materials such as paper, cardstock and cork.

Some materials may need pre-treatment prior to cutting due to their reflective properties; for example, magnesium or aluminum should be avoided because they reflect laser beams rather than absorb them. Such materials require additional material coatings in order to ensure an effective cutting process. Alternatively, fiber laser cutting, using fiber optic cable to transmit the laser beam to the reflective surface, is another way around this issue.

When looking for materials suitable for laser cutting or engraving with a laser cutter, it is essential to know the material specifications of your finished piece. Metallic materials such as stainless steel and aluminum are excellent for laser cutting, as they have a high melting point and can withstand the high temperatures of the laser beam. Other metals like brass and copper can also be used for laser cutting but are more likely to warp or deform. 


Application Ideas

Laser cutting is an innovative precision technology used in a wide variety of industries and applications. This precision process can create intricate shapes with accuracy down to 0.002 inches, making it ideal for use in aerospace, tooling, manufacturing, medical device, and electronics production. This process can provide precision not possible with traditional methods like sawing or punching as well as reducing material waste and cost compared to other processes. 

Etching is another application for laser cutting. Etching can create intricate designs on a wide range of materials, from stainless steel to glass and plastic. Laser cutters allow you to precisely etch designs onto various materials for decorative and practical purposes.

You can use laser cutters for welding if the beam power is strong enough to melt the materials during the cut. This process allows for flexible production and greater versatility in completing a job. An even better option is combining a laser cutter with a welding head, which can further maximize precision to perform welding tasks successfully. This combination also enables industry professionals to complete welding objectives quickly, cost-effectively, and efficiently.

Laser marking is another application of laser cutters. It allows you to permanently mark text or symbols onto many materials, such as metals and plastics. Laser marking is often used in industrial settings to tag products or components with branding or logos.

Finally, drilling is possible with certain types of laser cutters. They can cut tiny holes into metal and other materials quickly and accurately, making them ideal for tasks where precision is essential such as in the manufacturing of electronic components.


How Can We Assist?

We can help you with all your metallic laser cutting needs at Glenn Metalcraft. We offer heavy metal spinning, machining, cutting, and welding services and have access to additional fabrication and finishing resources through the Elemet Group. Whether you need laser cutters for stainless steel, or other materials suitable for laser cutting, we can assist you with all your laser-cutting projects.

Our nationwide customers trust us for our quality craftsmanship and reliable delivery services. Contact us today, and let us help you with your laser-cutting needs!

Laser Cutting


Laser cutting has replaced some of the most conventional cutting methods in the fabrication process. A combination of high-powered laser beams, partial mirrors, and gases combine to form modern laser cutting machines. Recent developments have led to laser cutters using CNC technology to cut through steel or piping many inches thick with a smooth cut line and fine detail.

How Laser Cutting Works

precision laser cutting machine

Laser cutting directs the output of a high-powered laser via computer toward the material to be cut. The material then either melts, burns, vaporizes, or is blown away by a gas jet, leaving the edge with a smooth, high-quality surface finish. Industrial laser cutters can cut flat-sheet material as well as structural and piping materials.

At Glenn Metalcraft, we’ve been using our expertise and experience manufacturing a precision laser-cut part that meets our customer’s exact specifications for over 35 years. Need our expertise?

Advantages of Laser Cutting

laser cutting services

Laser cutting is versatile and can implement cutting in ways that other machines can’t. Materials that are difficult to cut using other methods make excellent candidates for laser cutting. The advantages of laser cutting include:

  • High Accuracy. Accuracy of +/-0.1 mm allows achieving high precision cuts.
  • Low lead times. No need to change the setup for cutting a lot of different shapes within the same material thickness.
  • Lower power consumption. Cutting speed is faster than traditional mechanical cutting methods resulting in less power consumption.
  • Less waste. High processing speed results in a minimal heat-affected zone, ensuring low rates of workpiece distortion.
  • Ability to handle complex jobs. Capable of producing custom shapes and complex geometries.
  • Consistent part quality. Since laser cutting machines are CNC-controlled, they can repeatedly and consistently produce complex and intricate parts to high tolerances.
  • Less damage. Reduced risk of tool marks and surface scratches due to lack of physical contact.
  • No need for finishing. High-quality cuts and edges don’t require cleaning, treating, or finishing.
  • Suitable for a variety of metals. Laser cutting works on a wide array of metals like Steel, Titanium, Brass, Copper, Nickel, Tungsten, Nickel, Aluminum, etc.

Applications for Laser Cutting

laser cutting metal with sparks

Lasers are a vital part of the automation process across the automotive, electronics, energy, heavy equipment, medical device manufacturing, and tool & die industries. The use of laser cutting in the manufacturing process can significantly reduce overtime on projects and increase productivity.


As vehicles become more advanced, smaller parts need to be precisely cut. The smooth, precise cuts created by a laser allow for less material waste, and the power required for laser cutting is low. The automotive industry has a significant need for exact replicas of parts of different shapes and sizes. Laser cutting cuts metals to form body pieces of the vehicle, electronic components, and interior covers and buttons.

Laser cutting is ideal for cutting complex formed parts. These are usually vital parts that lend support to the structure of the vehicles. Commonly, these pieces create the engine frame or the instrument panels.


The trend toward miniaturization, more efficient use of space and large volume production are highly valued characteristics in the electronics industry. Laser cutting technology can produce the precision and high-speed production required for switching cabinet housing, plug-in units, and the housing of electrical devices.


Changes in building use are increasing the demand for custom solutions for unique purpose buildings, which require flexible machine concepts from manufacturers. Many products used in making air conditioning technology and energy technology are created from sheet metal such as housings, vents, and ductwork.

Heavy Equipment

From large part processing and thick plate cutting to exact and small, intricate parts, laser cutting can be used in many applications to maximize efficiency. Laser cutting provides a cost-effective alternative to building expensive dies to customize pieces.

Laser cutting is an ideal choice for a full range of agricultural, construction, and heavy equipment industry needs. Structural frames, exhaust pipes, driver’s cabs, mounts, blades, and brackets in agricultural and construction machinery are made from sheet metal.

Medical Device Manufacturing

Laser-cut stainless steel is the basis for medical devices and instruments that improve the procedures used with patients. Scalpels, scissors, valve framers, vascular clips, bone reamers, flexible shafts, and hones are all manufactured laser-cut precision parts.

Tool & Die

The laser’s ability to cut different depths of metal makes it ideal for cutting an extremely accurate die for stamping pieces and molds that will endure the repetitive nature of die-cutting. Laser cutting makes replicating the die a quick and precise operation.

Laser cutting can make injection molds with the same accuracy that it does with dies. Laser cutting simplifies mold making and makes reproducing the mold precisely a much less time-consuming and costly endeavor.

Laser Cutting Experts

machinist operating laser cutting machine

CNC laser technology allows Glenn Metalcraft to manufacture parts quickly and cost-effectively while maintaining the highest quality standards.

At Glenn Metalcraft, our client relationships are as sturdy as the metal we machine. We forged each one with quality service for the highest quality parts. We take pride in delivering your project ready for use, on time, and within budget.

We are a part of the Elemet Group, offering innovative, one-stop metal fabrication, machining, and industrial coating solutions since 1947. We eliminate the need for external sourcing, which saves you time and money. Our sister companies are:

Ready to talk about partnering with us in your product manufacturing project? Get in Touch.